***Updated September 2019***
Flu season comes every fall and despite last year being bad, the 2017-2018 season was one of the worst in history. Many illnesses required hospitalization, but there were staggering numbers of flu deaths. Deaths in otherwise healthy people, many of whom did not get the recommended flu shot! Did you get your shot yet? Getting one as late as January and February of each year is still better than not getting one at all!
The flu is caused by the Influenza virus and may infect 5-20% of the people in the USA each year. The rate depends on how aggressive the virus becomes in any given year. Please do not make the mistake of thinking the flu is just a really bad cold; it causes death!
In fact, the CDC cannot accurately state how many deaths occur each year because there are too many complications of the flu to count. It is safe to say that thousands of people die each year from the flu which could have been prevented by getting vaccinated. By avoiding a lame flu shot excuse.
Now in kids, the stakes are higher. Children under age 5 have a higher risk of developing a complication from the flu; therefore, vaccination in young kids is extremely important.
The CDC reports that 8% of people do not get their flu shot each year due to a variety of lame flu shot excuses. I hope you are not one of those people.
When should I get the flu shot?
The flu season arrives each year in October, so it is never really a surprise. But each year, many people go repeatedly go through the same 4 stages of Flu Season. Although the flu virus can be found all year round, the peak season is usually October to March.
If you need help remembering when flu season begins, consider Halloween as your reminder. Do you want to be tricked by the virus and become deathly ill? Or will you treat yourself to a flu shot?
Not to be an alarmist, but I MUST get your attention. Two people have died in California BEFORE the official start of the 2019 flu season.
Vaccination debates have been at the forefront of healthcare discussions and frankly, that is sad. Vaccines are life-saving. Period. End of sentence. As a physician, I like things that save lives.
To be fair, when you say ‘vaccines’, it is like saying ‘food’. Umm, which one? There are many kinds that do many things. Despite all vaccines having different dosing schedule and different impacts, they all serve the function of protecting our bodies from unwanted attacks.
I do not provide vaccines in my office, but I have personally witnessed the remarkable life-saving results from vaccines that have been created during my professional career.
The Anti Vaccination Movement contributes to lame flu shot excuses
The anti-vaccination movement consists of a group of people who believe vaccines should not be given. The movement began almost as soon as vaccines were developed! The reasons provided for their resistance has changed many times; however, they remain steadfast in their belief that vaccines are bad.
Being an anti-vaxxer is like being anti-medication or anti-surgery. You can choose to not fix your hernia but it is unlikely you will choose to not have your ruptured appendix removed. The point being, you should make an informed decision about each and every vaccine. Not the conspiracy theory that vaccines are bad.
Despite an extensive congressional investigation in 2000 that showed vaccines did not lead to autism AND despite a 21-page document produced by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2013 detailing vaccine safety, anti-vaxxers are not swayed. Millions of children remain unvaccinated to serious life-threatening illnesses.
Top 10 lame Flu Shot Excuses
Rather than being a blind anti-vaxxer who chooses to not receive the flu shot based on misinformation, I appreciate you reading this post to become informed. Take a minute to learn the truth behind these common, but WRONG, excuses for not getting a flu shot.
1. I will get the flu from the shot
Flu shots cannot cause flu illness because the injected virus is inactive or extremely weak. However, it can cause mild side effects that may be mistaken for flu. These side effects represent your body mounting the response it needs to be ready for an actual influenza virus attack.
Common side effects from the flu shot include soreness, redness, and/or swelling from the shot, headache, fever, muscle aches, and nausea. These symptoms are side effects, they are NOT the flu.
Each of our bodies reacts to foreign substance invasions in different ways. This helps explain why some of us develop allergies while others do not.
2. I don’t have time
Seriously? I am embarrassed to have to address this but I hear this lame flu shot excuse all the time.
I personally can walk into grocery stores, Walmart, or Target and staring me right in my face is the sign telling me to pop on over to get my flu shot! Your physician’s office and employee health centers are the most common locations to get vaccinated; however, there are so many more places. Where ever you are, a flu shot location is nearby.
I still smile when I look at this photo that I saw while my family was on vacation last year in London. Even as a tourist, I could have popped in to get my flu jab!
Every year, new places offer flu shots. Of course, you also drive by 8 million walk-in immediate care centers who offer the flu shot. Literally, it takes less than 10 minutes. Skip the coffee drive-through and go get your flu shot.
3. I heard it is not 100% effective
Again, seriously? How many things in your life are 100% guaranteed?
The influenza family of viruses is unusual because they are not the same every year. Chickenpox is chickenpox. Flu is not Flu. We need to be thankful that dedicated public health professionals track flu outbreaks around the world and predict which strains are coming our way.
Also, people who get the flu after vaccination tend to be less sick; therefore, the benefit is still present.
Just as the weather reporters are not 100% accurate, we have learned to listen to their predictions. Honestly, I have been that person who rolled my eyes when they got it wrong (Read: caught in the rain on an expected sunny day). However, we certainly appreciated their hurricane predictions that saved millions of lives!
4. If I am healthy, I can fight the virus
The Influenza virus aggressively attacks everyone. Even healthy people become extremely sick and miss significant amounts of work and school. Hospitalization may be needed. So congrats on being healthy, but the flu shot can help you stay that way.
Furthermore, even a typical common cold can lead to severe, life-threatening viral infection complications. So it is important to prevent anything possible.
5. The shots are mostly for sickly people, babies and elderly
The flu shot is recommended for everyone over the age of 6 months. There are people who are unable to tolerate the vaccination; therefore, if the community around them has been vaccinated, they become protected.
6. All vaccines are a conspiracy to make money for companies
Capitalism simply represents a system where people or companies are able to earn a living while providing products or provide services that are needed. How many of us work for free? Ummm, none.
Lame flu shot excuses like this make me angry because the people who say this are also the people who think physicians only care about money.
Physicians care about helping to keep people healthy. Scientists and public health professionals determine what vaccines need to be created to prevent epidemics. Vaccine companies fill the orders, and healthcare providers give the shots. This is the health circle. There is no conspiracy for getting rich. Just stop with this already.
7. I can’t take needles and they stopped the nose spray. (CRITICAL UPDATE!)
Yes, the nasal flu mist was discontinued for 2 years because awesome public health workers noted it was not as effective as the flu shots. Kudos to the people who work tirelessly to provide us with the most effective treatments!
However, in 2019, the CDC has once again recommended the nasal spray flu vaccine. It has been updated and now provides excellent results.
But even if you don’t use the nose spray, let’s just briefly list a few things that hurt more than a flu shot.
- Falling and scraping your knee
- Hitting your head on a cabinet door
- Banging your elbow and hitting the “funny bone” (not really funny but you get my point)
- Injuries, bumps, and bruises from playing just about any sport
- Getting finger caught in a door or drawer
- Your child slapping you in the face
On second thought, yup you can take the 0.5 seconds of pain a tiny needle causes.
8. Pregnant women can’t take the flu shot
Well, in fact, that is not true! Pregnant women can have a greater risk for the flu and flu-related complications. Also, women who are pregnant have a higher chance of having a preterm delivery.
Flu shots not only protect pregnant women but also protect newborns during the time when they are too young to get their own flu shots. So step right up and get your flu shot to protect you and your baby bump.
9. I am allergic to eggs
Severe allergic reactions from a flu vaccine are very rare. However, most people with non-life threatening egg allergies can safely get a flu shot made with the inactivated flu virus., according to the CDC.
Depending on the egg allergy symptoms, different locations or observation times are needed. Ask your physician for more details.
10. It causes autism…..or a host of other problems.
Every single year, the CDC works with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other partners to
ensure the highest safety standards for flu vaccines. If you simply google vaccine safety, you will quickly find your pick of large, well-researched studies proving the vaccines do not cause the diseases that people fear.
Unusual reactions can occur with any vaccine or medication. It does not mean the vaccine or the medication is the problem, it means your body’s reaction is the issue. Just like tree pollen does not harm many people, we should not chop down trees due to severe allergic reactions.
BONUS FLU SHOT EXCUSES: I am too late. I missed it.
Nope. It takes about 2 weeks for the flu vaccine to become fully effective, and with the season extending into the spring, it is better to get it late than to never get it.
If my answers did not fully help you to stop making lame flu shot excuses, please read this post which gives an interesting twist on reasons people avoid the flu shot! Goodness, after reading this piece, you need to run and get one.
Now that we have established that it is bad to blindly choose to remain unvaccinated, I do believe there are circumstances where a particular vaccination is delayed or omitted. Each vaccine has a list of reasons it would not be recommended. People who are unvaccinated due to known valid reasons are not anti-vaxxers. But these are the people we need to protect by getting ourselves vaccinated.
Choosing to remain unvaccinated is not a simple personal decision. It is a decision that may cause illness in others who are not able to be vaccinated. Each unvaccinated person must have a clear story to tell.
For now, if you have not done so yet, go get your flu shot. Take your family and friends with you. And then come back and read my personal story about the flu shot and my family. I promise it will not be what you expect.
As always, much love for supporting my work. I will be adding many more posts to highlight parenting and healthcare tips, so be sure to consider subscribing to my podcast or to my blog to avoid missing a post…or a Dr. Momma Minute!